One of the positive aspects of offering games for purchase as digital downloads instead of physical discs is stock never runs out. But that's not to say digital games can be offered for sale indefinitely. And that's the case for horror action-adventure game Alan Wake, which is being removed from Steam, Xbox Live, and any other digital store it appears on from May 16.
Why remove a download game from sale? Because developer Remedy Entertainment has no choice. As with all games, Alan Wake contains music, and music comes with a license attached. When the license expires any work associated with it, in this case a game, can no longer be sold. The only remedy for Remedy is to re-license the music.
That may sound like a simple task, but re-licensing is done only with the agreement of the music publisher and there's no guarantee they'll want to. According to Kotaku, Remedy is trying, but they can't say whether it will happen or not and so the game will definitely be removed from sale next week.
The only good news in all of this is Alan Wake will be heavily discounted for 48 hours this weekend. If you visit Steam tomorrow, you'll be able to purchase it with a 90 percent discount attached. The game is currently listed for $29.99, meaning it will cost $2.99 from tomorrow until 10am PST Monday.
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If you already own a digital copy of the game, don't worry, you will continue to have access to the files for the game. The music license expiring only affects new sales, not existing owners.
It's a real shame music licensing works in this way with regards to games as it means eventually many titles will disappear from sale. It would make much more sense for everyone involved if the license was perpetual and the music publisher continued to receive royalties for the lifetime of the game. That's unlikely to ever happen, though.